Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: The Pima Pool recently had its three roofs fitted with metal roofing. A solar array parking structure for the front is scheduled for construction next week.
Solar panel parking structure coming soon
By Jon Johnson
PIMA – The summertime crown jewel of Pima keeps getting better with upgrades and partnerships to the benefit of residents.
The town recently spent $6,250 for new metal roofs for the pool’s lifeguard shack and two pump rooms. The work was done by Ward Brothers Enterprise LLC and was finished up early Wednesday morning.
In addition to the new roof, the pool also changed out its lights to new LED bulbs that are brighter and more energy efficient.
Pima Pool Manager Ronna Lewis said the upgrades are a “great thing” for the pool.
“The lights are great,” she said. “They’re so much brighter than before.”
The lights increase safety at the pool during nighttime swim hours and for parties.
Solar parking structure
Even bigger news for the pool is the addition of a 65-kilowatt solar panel system that will greatly reduce the pool’s electric consumption.
The project is done in conjunction with the Graham County Electric Cooperative, which is covering the upfront cost of about $200,000 through its Renewable Energy Standards tariff, which every co-op member pays on their bills. Previously, the tariff went to pay solar rebates for individual customers, but this new pilot program looks to spread the benefits of the tariff out to a wider swath of cooperative customers by spending it on entities that serve the member base.
The solar array will be a standalone structure and will also serve as covered, shaded parking for the pool. The parking solar structure will stretch 128 feet across the front of the property in front of the pool and will have a second row 50 feet behind the first row.
The program is a performance-based incentive in which the co-op pays for the project up front and the entity will pay it back over the life of the system while also reducing its electric bill.
“I’ve come up with a way to do this where everybody wins,” said Graham County Electric Cooperative Manager/CEO Kirk Gray. “They get the benefit of reducing their bills – it doesn’t reduce it to zero but it reduces their bills – and we still get a portion of the money that is required to keep the system to basically be the battery backup.”
With the money being paid back into the Renewable Energy Standards fund, it keeps the cooperative from having to raise the tariff in the future.
“With more and more mandates to have more and more renewables, we won’t have to necessarily increase that little bit of charge that we charge all the members,” Gray said. “We can utilize this and it’s self-perpetuating. You put more in and it pays it back and you get to put more in. So, it works pretty well.”
Installation of the Pima Pool solar array parking structure is slated to begin the week of June 17 – 21.
Lewis said the shaded parking structure will be a great benefit for those who come to the pool and the system is a great deal for the town to reduce the pool’s energy costs.
“In the long run, it’s going to be a good thing for the pool,” Lewis said. “And the covered parking is a bonus.”